After a late night binge in a pub, a team of ISRO scientists take a metro back home. A scuffle takes place and before anyone can shout ‘help’, the character played by Sonakshi Sinha pins down a couple of miscreants. Taapsee Pannu joins too and then Kirti Kulhari and Nithya Menen enter the scene as well with their bags becoming their weapon. Even as they end up overpowering the men around them, the only male counterpart from their team, a Mission Director no less, is withering in pain due to a safety pin pinching his bottom.
Who is the man here? Well, as you guessed it right, Akshay Kumar.
This is exactly the manner in which the superstar approaches his role in the film. He guides his team, motivates them, helps solve their problems, removes impediments that come in their way, gets them the necessary approvals, doesn’t aim to hog the limelight, knows the language that his team is speaking, and then owns up the end result regardless of the final outcome. In short, a complete leader.
Even as a superstar of the film, this is how he approaches his role in the narrative. He realises that the film has Vidya Balan driving the show with the other leading ladies playing supporting characters. He is an accompanying partner of Vidya and of course due to the saleability factor, he does the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing and promotion. However, never once does Mission Mangal come across as a film ‘about’ Akshay. After all, he knows that when it comes to that, there is always a Rowdy Rathore 2 or a Bachchan Pandey in the making!
This is what makes Mission Mangal special since at the core of it this one is an ensemble entertainer. You love the manner in which characters come together and ensure that there is dedication for this Mission Mangal despite it being a real long shot. As is the saying, for any great win, there needs to be a strong opposition and this is where Dalip Tahil turns out to be a formidable antagonist. In one of his meatiest characterisations till date since he played a baddie in Shah Rukh Khan’s Baazigar, he ensures that all the roadblocks en route this multi million dollar mission are celebrated and all wins are dealt with cynicism.
As performers, each and every actor shines. Akshay Kumar has been assured for a real long time now and the way he allows women to take centre stage in this film while still making his presence felt in every scene is a testimony of his true stardom. Vidya Balan is the soul of the film. Natural to the core and exuding all around warmth, be it with her team or back there at home, she is just terrific. First Tumhari Sulu and now Mission Mangal, she is just fantastic.
Sonakshi Sinha finally got the kind of character to play where she actually got a chance to shine. Even on those four or five scenes, she made sure that she rocked the show. One just hopes she is seen in more such urban roles. On the other hand Taapsee Pannu moved into a different persona for Mission Mangal and in a saree clad avtar, she made sure that there was ample sunshine with her around. Kirti Kulhari has been a reliable actress and after films like Pink and Uri – The Surgical Strike, she made sure that even in the ensemble, she was making an important contribution. As for Nithya Menen, she has made her Bollywood debut with this film and while she approached her part in a natural way, one waits to see what she picks up next. Sharman Joshi is fine in every scene that he appears though one would have liked his part to have a larger contribution to make to the film’s plot. In fact veteran actor H.G. Dattatreya has an almost equal part and he is adorable. Ditto for Vikram Gokhale who reminds once again after Amitabh Bachchan starrer Agneepath that Bollywood needs to use him more as an actor.
As an audience you are thoroughly engaged in the narrative that is put together by director Jagan Shakti and producer & creative director Balki. They make sure that the film has the right mix of technical know-how interspersed with slice of life light hearted moments that end up making this one a rollicking entertainer that ends up catering to all sorts of audience. This means whether it is the class or mass audience, youth or elderly, or male or female audience, there is a lot of everyone out there which makes Mission Mangal a very approachable film.
What makes it further approachable is the fact that it stays away from trying to be a Gravity or an Interstellar or First Man. Yes, there is this terrific last 30 minutes of the film where you are taken into space with the kind of VFX in there which is actually IMAX ready. However even here there is a humane element involved, what with a pundit reciting shlokas no less, hence making Mission Mangal a film which stays down to earth, despite being set in the sky.